It’s official – Qatar Airways pulls out of Seychelles |14 June 2013
Citing “commercial reasons” for the suspension, the last daily service between Doha and Mahé, a route the airline has served for the past eight and a half years, will fly on August 31, 2013.
No specific reasons were given for the pull-out, but it appears to be the culmination of a long battle between the Qatari airline and its UAE-based rival, Etihad Airways for travellers to and from the island nation and its associated transfer traffic.
The airline competition intensified in the Gulf following the Etihad-Air Seychelles alliance in January last year, which has been strengthened by several significant code share agreements in recent months.
Efforts to obtain comments on the situation from the local branch of Qatar Airways proved unsuccessful.
The Minister for Home Affairs and Transport, Joël Morgan has expressed his assurances in a statement released yesterday that the government of Seychelles would “continue to work hard to further enhance the quality of our tourism product, with the aim to grow the number of visitors to our shores”.
He also reiterated that the government remained committed to continuing to strengthen the working relationship with Qatar Airways, as Seychelles seeks to find ways to welcome the airline back to the country and ease the re-launching of its operations.
Qatar Airways’ chief executive, Akbar Al Baker, said in a statement that the decision was made after careful consideration, but that he remained optimistic for the airline’s return on the route.
"We have built up a strong relationship with our partners over the years and will continue to work with them and the relevant authorities to ensure a smooth discontinuation of the route,” he said.
The head office has reassured affected parties that passengers who have made bookings on the affected route will be reallocated on other airlines or given a full refund.
Minister Morgan’s special advisor Raymond St Ange told Seychelles Nation that the ministry was saddened by the airline’s decision to pull out of Seychelles and was also concerned about the subsequent impact the move will have on jobs and influx of visitors to the country.
He did however say the ministry remained optimistic that the airline would resume the service in the future if demand makes it economically viable once more.
Qatar Airways currently accounts for approximately 9-10% of the total number of tourists coming into the country.
“The official notification came in on June 10 from the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority,” said Mr St Ange. “On the jobs, we are obviously concerned. There are about 13 employees who are directly employed by Qatar Airways.”
Mr St Ange said that the Ministry of Labour and Human Resource Development has a plan in place to help the Qatar Airways staff members where possible to ensure that their valuable experience would not be lost to the airline industry.
“Because of the extensive amount of code shares and other service providers available, people who have made bookings on Qatar Airways from September onwards can switch to an alternate airline, which we would strongly recommend,” said Mr St Ange.
“We want people to continue to come to Seychelles and we want them to experience the services that the other airlines offer into the Seychelles,” he added.